“Have you considered a Christian education for your child?” This was the question that was posed to Ottawa parents and community members recently, as more than a dozen elementary, secondary, and post-secondary Christian schools from the city gathered in one location to present the option of Christian education at the first annual Christian Education Exposition. The event, hosted by Redeemer Christian High School, ran for a full Saturday, October 22nd with the intention of showcasing the many options that parents have for Christian education in the large city of Ottawa.
The concept of putting representatives of the many Christian schools under one roof for a day originated from a parent from St. Timothy’s Classical Academy. After hearing about similar events that were being held for private schools in Ottawa, the parent (who wishes to remain anonymous) felt prompted to create an opportunity in which parents from the community were invited to consider Christian educational options for their children. “I felt the need to have an event which would raise the profile of Christian schools in the region,” she shared, “and at the same time I felt it was important for all of the schools to become more aware of one another and to have the opportunity to collaborate and network.”
The dedicated parent connected with each of the Christian schools in the Ottawa area, sharing her vision for the event and inviting them to participate. “Already before we had the details arranged, almost every Christian school in the region came on board!” she noted. She arranged a meeting in which they discussed vision, advertising, and logistics, and tasks were delegated in order to share the workload. “One representative took on the radio commercial writing, another the Facebook page, and another the emails to churches,” she stated. “The teamwork was wonderful!”
Representatives from each of the Christian schools set up booths around the perimeter of the cafeteria. Students from hosting school Redeemer Christian High School (Redeemer) participated by greeting and helping with registration, setting up booths, and serving food. These students were also happy to give prospective parents a tour of their school—sharing stories and projects with parents who came to ask questions.
“The atmosphere was very relaxed,” shared Redeemer student Zaccheaus. “I thought it was a great environment, not only for the visiting parents, but also for representatives of the Christian schools themselves to really interact together and get to know each other’s communities better.”
The Exposition offered an opportunity for the local schools to raise the profile of Christian education in Ottawa. Redeemer Admissions Director Cathy Dentz described how the schools advertised on the local radio station, and as a group they put bulletin announcements in area churches. “Working together, we can always do more than we can on our own,” she shared.
“For many parents, this was their first time exploring the option of Christian education,” added Ottawa Christian School’s Advancement Director, Virginia Dawson. “That’s the foundation of why we put this together—to provide opportunities for those who might not feel comfortable walking into the front door of the schools to ask their questions, or may not even be aware that they exist!”
When running an event such as this for the first time, there are always challenges. “We were hoping for more traffic,” shared Ms. Dentz. “However, it’s not always about the numbers. The people who came were very interested in Christian education for their children.” She went on to share that she was particularly inspired by one mother who came to the event with a clipboard filled with specific questions that she asked of the representatives of each school. “Obviously, the interactions were important to those who were there,” added Ms. Dentz. “Overall, the experience was really positive and we hope to do it again.”
“Parents who came in could see an array of excellent options at their fingertips,” added the event organizer from St. Timothy’s Classical Academy. “They could sense not only the quality of the schools that were being represented, but also the love of the people involved.”
Not only did the event offer opportunities for parents and community members to explore the option of Christian education, it also gave Christian school representatives the chance to connect with each other. “There is such a variety of Christian Schools in Ottawa!” shared Ms. Dawson. “It was wonderful to get together with other like-minded representatives, to spend time getting to know each other better, and to hear what is important to them as well.”
“It was a kind of ‘the more the merrier’ atmosphere,” said Ottawa Christian School principal Paul Triemstra. “We had some rich conversations with families interested in sending their children to Christian schools. We also had rich interactions with representatives from other schools. It was good to get to know them. I think there was a common understanding that we are in this Christian education business together. We are not competition but are drawing on different communities—whether geographic, pedagogical or ecclesiastical.”
All in all, those who spent the day sharing the vision and the stories of their Christian schools to parents and the community members who stopped by were excited about what the day had to offer and believed it was important to be there. “I know that the families that attended enjoyed the opportunity to ‘shop’ under one roof and get their questions answered,” shared Ms. Dawson. “We’re excited about doing it again next year and are looking forward to connecting with many more families that want their children to have a Christian education!”